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I have been playing the oboe for a term now, and I have come across some songs that require me to use dynamics. How do you achieve dynamics on the oboe, and what exercises can you do to master it.

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I had an excellent teacher as an adult for three years. To play more softly on the oboe, you close around the reed a little more tightly to maintain the pitch while blowing a little less. The oboe does not have the range of dynamics, that, for example, a French horn does. There are teachers who say you blow full blast on the oboe all the time and simply squeeze down on the reed to play more softly, but my teacher did not agree with that. He was a tenured college instructor.

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From the way this question was written, I have to ask whether you know what dynamics are. Dynamics are variations in volume: how loud or soft you play. Oboe is a wind instrument; unless I'm mistaken about how an oboe produces sound, one can control the volume of their sound by how hard they blow into the oboe. It will take a fair amount of practice and experimentation, and I'm sure there are other, more technical oboe-specific ways to vary dynamics (start here, maybe?), and we musicians generally ascribe more meaning than just waveform amplitude to the term "dynamics", but at a basic level, that's what dynamics are in music.

A bonus: dynamic markings are usually written as expression text around the staff, in a cursive font. The markings exist on a spectrum from quietest to loudest: pianissimo (pp), piano (p), mezzo-piano (mp), mezzo-forte (mf), forte (f), fortissimo (ff). As you can probably deduce, 'piano' means quiet and 'forte' means loud, 'issimo' means extremely, and 'mezzo' means moderately (these are from Italian). It is possible to have dynamic markings such as ppp or fff (representing pianississimo and fortississimo, respectively) that are just more extreme variants of the above markings. These markings are all relative to each other, and generally do not have absolute volume levels associated with them - the most important information to parse is the change in the volume level of the music over time.

These aren't the only dynamic markings, either, but that's a topic for another day...

Example:

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    Producing dynamics on the oboe is a lot more complicated than "how hard you blow". As I already explained to OP on a comment on another post, learning oboe without a teacher is futile.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 23:02
  • Framechallenge all you want, but I'm pretty sure varying airflow is a substantial part of oboe dynamics. How that is to be accomplished is another matter, but OP's post here makes it seem that they might need this explanation of dynamics to be at a less-technical level.
    – user45266
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 23:17
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    I know what dynamics are. I just want to learn how to achieve them on the oboe Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 16:23
  • @TheMaskedRebel I do have a link in my answer that at least begins to cover that.
    – user45266
    Commented Mar 12, 2020 at 20:32
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    Dynamic control is a particular challenge on the oboe. This “answer” greatly over-simplifies it. Even on clarinet, which has a wide and relatively easily accessible dynamic range, it’s a bit more complicated. Commented Dec 21, 2022 at 3:16

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